Myanmar’s government will ink a peace deal on October 15 with only eight of the country’s fifteen ethnic armed groups it initially agreed to negotiate with, officials confirmed Sunday.
Over the past few years, the government has been trying to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) to help end decades of civil war before historic polls in November. But getting all rebel groups on board has proven difficult, with several – including the Kachin Independence Army – refusing to sign the agreement and still engaged in clashes with government troops.
“The NCA will be signed on October 15 in Naypyidaw,” Hla Maung Shwe, a senior member of the government’s negotiating team, told AFP, adding that eight groups including the Karen National Union were part of the pact.
“We will keep inviting all ethnic armed groups to sign,” he added.
Although there are 21 armed ethnic groups in Myanmar which have sought inclusion in the nationwide ceasefire, the government has only officially recognized 15.
In a statement released October 3, the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic groups chaired by the KIO, said the pact that is to be signed is incomplete as it does not include all stakeholders.
“As the NCA is going to be signed by only some organizations, it cannot be a decisive and complete one,” the statement said.
The group urged the international community to support the emergence of “genuine political dialogue and peace” in Myanmar, noting that ceasefire talks had been undermined by “widespread and ceaseless offensives” against ethnic nationalities by government forces.
But U Aung Min, the chief government negotiator, assured participants at the Myanmar Peace Center that the government would not launch offensives against the groups that were not part of the agreement, and that the door would still be open for these organizations to join the pact.
“The government has no intention to use the unwillingness of some organizations to currently sign the NCA as a reason to launch offensives against them. Existing bilateral agreements will be adhered to, and issues will be resolved peacefully. Accidental conflicts that arise will be handled by mechanisms that emerge from the NCA,” he said according to Myanmar Times.